Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him, bless his name. For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations (Psalm 100:4-5).

As Thanksgiving Day approaches, pastors everywhere write corny, predictable articles about how we should be thankful and count our blessings. They’ll prattle on about how crucial it is for us to focus on the riches we have in Christ. They’ll stress the importance of discerning between the things we want and the things we need. And this article will be no exception.

During this time of year, as we enter the holiday season, we tend to be a little more thoughtful, a little more generous. Certainly, this is admirable. But what if the spirit of thanksgiving inspired us to do more? What if our thankful hearts prompted us to concrete action? What if being thankful propelled us to do something beyond our comfort zones? After all, being thankful may lead us on a journey.

For some of us, our journey to thankfulness is rather brief. It goes something like this: “Dear God, I am so thankful that I have so many blessings (read: luxuries). I sure am glad that I don’t live in __________ (insert the name of an inner city or developing country). God, you really have been good to me! Amen.”

Certainly, it’s right to give God thanks. But what if our journeys of thankfulness inspired a heart for justice? What if, in addition to being thankful, we could be thankful advocates? What if our thankfulness connected us to our baptismal identity?

During the baptismal rite, we enter a covenant with God to “proclaim Christ through word and deed, care for others and the world God made, and work for justice and peace.” We are sealed in that covenant by the Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever. Our faith is not passive, private or privileged. But rather, our faith is proactive, public and powerful.

This holiday season, as we gorge ourselves at family feasts and begin the rapid descent into cavalier consumerism, may we embrace the magnificent luxury that we most often forget—the luxury we have to effect policy change, the luxury we have to walk in justice. What if we each committed to a cause that is bigger than ourselves? What if we walked faithfully with a nonprofit agency, ministry or volunteer organization that gave voice to a cause that is near and dear to our hearts?

One of our Savior’s most powerful promises is reinforced through our baptismal rite: You are the light of the world. … Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works, and give glory to your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:14,16). Since God has been so good to us, we can share that goodness with others, and our church is an excellent vehicle to do so.

Our world is brimming with concerns: the environment, mental health, racial justice, homelessness, cancer awareness, job creation, food scarcity, HIV and AIDS, autism awareness, addiction, violence against women, peacemaking, immigration—the list is seemingly endless. But perhaps you don’t have a strong inclination to any particular cause. If that’s you, please know the Spirit is an amazing guide. Through prayer, the Spirit can open your eyes, heart and mind, and direct you to the perfect ministry for your gifts.

Everything that exists is through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus gave himself to us so we can give ourselves to others. May thanksgiving become our way of life.

Angela T. !Khabeb
Angela T. !Khabeb is an ELCA pastor living in Minneapolis. She enjoys an active home life with her husband and three children. 

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